This is a lightly tweaked version of what was, apparently, the most viewed post on the previous incarnation of my blog. I’m planning to write more on this over the next few months, so spruced this up.
The Cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest symbol, the greatest event in all of history. It is notable because God died on that Cross, notable because it represents the perfect sacrifice, notable because of the example it set, notable because of the love it displayed, notable because it is a total solution to the problem of sin, notable because it is the ultimate victory for love, and notable because it is the supreme example of forgiveness.
The Cross is wonderful.
Now, I am unashamedly Reformed, and a little bit Puritan in my theology – or at least I aim to be – and I thus understand the Cross best in terms of penal substitution – the sacrifice for sins that paid the price. This is not the only way. And in searching for other ways, I appreciate the Cross even more. But I don’t want to wholly depart from this view. If I had to pick one, it would be this. But the Cross is more than that. It cannot be tamed with a single view. But a view of the Cross that ignores sacrifice is a watered down one. Because penal substitution recognises the gravity of the gulf between man and God, the stunning event of the Cross, the heritage of God’s covenant relationship with mankind, and the outpouring of God’s love in the person of Christ. There are other posts on my blog about this – I do think it is a good thing.
The second way I am learning to look at the cross is perhaps a subset of substitution – the notion of the cross and forgiveness. This is one of the best parts of the Gospel, the promise of forgiveness and life to us individual sinful humans. That the cross deals with our guilt. Once for all. A perfect sacrifice. That represents, presents, and re-presents perfect forgiveness to anyone, anywhere. In a way that no man can emulate. Through an action no-one else could do. Before we trust in Jesus we are guilty and deserve death. On the cross Jesus demonstrates that God is willing to go to extreme lengths, of his own volition, to repair the broken world and reach out forgiveness to any who would call on his name. The cross is the ultimate symbol of forgiveness. As Romans 8:1 says, ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus‘. Under the shadow of the cross. Walking out by the power of the Holy Spirit in the light of the resurrection. Completely forgiven.
Thirdly, and I have not always seen this, there is the victory of the cross, or what theologians can sometimes call ‘Christus Victor’. This is, perhaps, one of the most obvious and exciting views of the cross, and the one that best takes into account the resurrection of Jesus. The cross was a criminals death for the creator of the universe. The dying breaths of Jesus were sweet to the forces of evil. But that was not the end of the story. Not the end of God’s love. Jesus rose again. He is RISEN, HALLELUJAH! This is where the party starts. In the very human predicament of death, Jesus shows us that he has beaten death, and come into a fullness of life, a victory that we can share in. In Colossians 2:15, we read that ‘He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him‘.
On the cross.
Staring death in the face.
Then coming back to life.
THAT is a triumph.
And that is the faith that we are to contend for.
The cross as a victory. The cross as atoning sacrifice. The cross as the supreme example of forgiveness.
The cross showed us God’s love.
Finally, then, the cross as an example. Jesus set the tone for his followers by dying. And then living. As Christians, we die to sin and live for righteousness. Die to the old world, and live for the coming kingdom. Consider John 15:12-19. Its a great example of love. Are we willing to die for the sake others? Literally? Or putting others before us? The needs of others? Material. Physical. Emotional. Spiritual. Can you swallow your pride to share the Gospel with someone, or hand out soup to someone, or listen to someone? Jesus died. That you might have the freedom to die to self. Forever. For the coming kingdom.
The Cross of Jesus Christ is the most wonderful event in history. The Resurrection made it even more powerful. The Cross is the total solution to the problem of sin, the perfect outpouring of God’s love, and totally sufficient for you and me and anyone who would call on the name of Jesus. It is the ultimate victory over death, sin and darkness around which the whole of history pivots, cracking the veil that the Resurrection burst through. And then the Kingdom of God starts to creep in, more than we could dream, and more surprisingly than we can imagine.
It starts with the Cross.